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blackberrycottage



Joined: 23 Nov 2008
Posts: 240


Location: Barnsley Yorkshire

PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 7:48 pm    Post subject:  Reply with quote

The first seven Phil Rickman novels are now being rereleased. Wine of Angels came out on April 1st and the others follow at two monthly intervals. Apparently Waterstones has its own special edition.  This is according to the Phil Rickman page on Facebook.


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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
Posts: 3569


Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, excellent news - should be able to catch up with the two or three I had to miss out.  Thanks, blackberrycottage, will investigate further!


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KlaraZ



Joined: 29 Jun 2010
Posts: 193



PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2011 7:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent news, I agree. And I'm eagerly awaiting his new Merrily Watkins novel, The Secrets of Pain, which is coming out in the autumn.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2960


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 11:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With all these recommendations, I have just started reading Midwinter of the Spirit, which I think is the earliest Merrily Watkins book our library had, though I am not sure where it fits in the series.

I don't know yet how I will get on with the supernatural elements, being something of a rationalist myself.  Part of the trouble with any form of supernatural in novels is that finding things are completely natural always feels a bit of a cop-out, but accepting supernatural possibilities just seems ridiculous.  So usually I avoid anything magical or dealing in spirits.  (With adventure books of magic - LOTR or Harry Potter or Crestanamci for example - I struggle with (as with all children's adventure goodies/baddies books really) the power of magic/strength/luck in determining events and why one lot of magic would be stronger than another, and why people can't, if there is magic, just know automatically what is happening/going to happen.  Or where their enemies are, etc.  

At the same time I would be very disappointed if my expectations of the 'goodies' winning were to be dashed.  That requires a very different sort of book.

Caro.


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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
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Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let's just say that I don't think you need to worry about the supernatural vs rational thing with these, Caro.  I forget which book is which, so I can't remember the story of Midwinter of the Spirit.  

There is a sense that things are referred to from previous books, but they do all stand alone as novels - it's just things that happened in Merrily's life that are referred to, or in the lives of the other characters, but not knowing these is not important enough to detract from the current novel.

My favourite one is the one about the ghost of Elgar cycling around the Malverns!


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blackberrycottage



Joined: 23 Nov 2008
Posts: 240


Location: Barnsley Yorkshire

PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 8:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I liked the Garway one and the one with the allusions to Fred West best. I didn't much like the Elgar one or the Baskerville one. I prefer the ones based more around the Wye. I started with the second one, because that was what was in the library. I found the opening to the first one with the wassailing of the apples odd - it would have been enough to put me off if I hadn't liked the second one so much. I think I need to go back and read them all again. I want Frannie Bliss to have a better home life.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 8:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have checked a website and I am reading the second one.  The first one is called The Wine of Angels.  (I think - checked this a few seconds ago and have managed to become uncertain already!)


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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
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Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, Wine of Angels is the first one - it's after that that the order loses me now!  I found the Fred West one a bit too dark, by association, and a bit unpleasant as a result - but I have enjoyed them all.

But then I loved the apple wassailing thing - that appealed to me more than anything!


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2960


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2011 6:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have finished Rickman's Midwinter of the Spirit, but I am not sure I am as enamoured by it as I hoped to be.  My main criticism is with the length of it - at the end he thanked his wife for "some absolutely vital plot-surgery; I just wish she had taken her scalpel a more sharply to it.  468 pages is too long for a light crime novel.  However this is a fault he shares with an awful lot of writers of lightist works, so I assume it is insisted on by publishers.  I had got a little tired of it by page 320.

And I also got tired of the constant changes of scene and character.  Maybe I'm a lazy reader, but I don't like having to readjust my thinking every second or third page to accommodate a different set of characters.  And Phil Rickman does this all the time.  I suppose this is to show things happening simultaneously but I don't like it. I don't know if he has an eye to a television series or if he wants the quick change of scene to indicate a quick pace in the novel, but I really would have liked to concentrate on Merrily, Jane or Lol for a reasonable length of time before shifting to one of the others.  

I am not religious or spiritual to any degree so the tension between the forces of Christianity and God and Satanic believers is not particularly interesting to me.  But there is certainly plenty to learn about church heirarchy, architecture, and history here which I liked.  And the three ongoing characters are enjoyable.  Lol Robinson is the sort of man who draws the reader to him, as is Merrily.  (One minor quibble - not a single person in this novel, on being introduced to Merrily, makes a comment on her name, or asks to have it repeated.)  

One or two infelicities of simile/metaphor hit me - and they are not unique to Rickman.  I notice writers seem to strain for similes often to laughable effect.  I noticed here, "the wind had died, leaving the sky lumpy and congealed like a cold, fried breakfast".  No, please.  And "In the afternoon sunshine, the woods were a golden crust on the long, shallow loaf."

And yet the same author can describe some massed singing thus:  "...a piano was being plonked, a dozen cracked sopranos clawing for the notes of what might have been a hymn".  I loved the thought of cracked sopranos clawing for notes.  It seemed so right somehow.  

I don't doubt I will try more of these, however.  I have made my response to this sound totally negative and it wasn't at all.  But I would love it to have been shorter for a quicker read.

Cheers, Caro.




Last edited by Caro on Sun May 29, 2011 10:32 am; edited 1 time in total
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Evie
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Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2011 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't mind the length at all, in fact I quite like the fact that they are doorstops - I'm always sad when they end!  But Phil Rickman's writing is often bad - somehow it doesn't stop me enjoying the books.  Though with me I think it's partly that my sister is a vicar in the Church of England (though not an exorcist!), and much of the writing about the church is accurate enough to make me (and her) laugh.

I didn't want to give anything away before the end, but I hope you feel reassured that the seemingly supernatural turns out to have very earthly origins!  There is still a hint of mystery, and Merrily clearly takes her job and her calling seriously, but ultimately the activities she investigates are of human origin.  There is a lot of tapping into ancient folklore and the mystery of the history of the landscape, which I love, and they are not without their spiritual side, but you don't get the supernatural cop-out that you were fearing, Caro.

Lol Robinson is lovely!



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